On loneliness

I just returned to my office after teaching an introductory session on relationships to our MA Human Geography students to find a Twitter link to this article by Aditya Chakrabortty in The Guardian.

Chakrabortty reflects on this government’s record on fighting loneliness, in the light of Health Minister Jeremy Hunt’s recent speech. Chakrabortty argues that “Such stats [about the health hazards of loneliness]¬†should make tackling isolation a public-health priority for any government. This one, however, seems to be doing its best to increase loneliness: its bedroom tax and housing-benefit cuts are wrenching families out of their communities and driving them into other neighbourhoods, even other cities.”

But having just been talking to our MA students about relationships and about nature and value of relationships in the city, I was drawn to Chakrabortty’s discussion of the desperately sad story of Joyce Vincent, a 38 year old Londoner found dead in her flat in 2006, three years after she had died. Chakrabortty writes that “she had sisters, mates, former colleagues and ex-boyfriends. Those social circles appear to have failed her.”

Joyce Vincent’s life and death became the focus of a documentary film by filmmaker Carol Morley, Dreams of a Life. According to Chakrabortty (I haven’t seen the film yet), Morley’s film “shows city living as a series of weak links, forgettable friendships and single people getting by in their single housing units. By the end of it, you not only understand how a person can disappear from view; you wonder how many others suffer the same fate.”

The reviews and discussions of Morley’s film (see Philip French, and two pieces by Peter Bradshaw¬†here and here, for example) pick up on many of the same themes and questions. And Carol Morley herself talks about them here.

I don’t have much to add at this stage but this story and these questions of loneliness in the city struck me hard as I returned from teaching about these very things.